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In a no-lose situation with Dodgers, Manny Ramirez is a lost cause

BILL PLASCHKE

Offered a deal that favored him completely, the outfielder turns it down. Now it's personal, between his agent Scott Boras and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, and between the team and Ramirez.

February 27, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

Think about this.

For the first year, he would earn $25 million, making him the highest-paid athlete in Los Angeles and the second-highest-paid player in baseball.

If he failed, the following year he still would earn $20 million.

If he succeeded, he could immediately void the contract and sell himself for millions more.

It was a real offer. It was written on a real contract. It was handed over during a time of real national economic distress.

For a 36-year-old man who quit on his last team, it was a golden chance at redemption, an unthinkable deal of a lifetime.

This week, by every stretch of the wildest imagination, the Dodgers made Manny Ramirez a no-lose proposition.

By rejecting it Thursday, Ramirez has officially lost it.

He's lost his dignity. He's lost his perspective. He's lost his marbles.

He is quickly losing the patience of a Dodgers front office that is weary of negotiating against itself for a player that nobody values even remotely as much.

He will surely be losing the admiration of a Dodgers team that is training while he is teasing.

And, yes, here's guessing he soon will be even losing the last line of his defense, the affection of Dodgers fans who surely are weary of cheering for greed in an era of need.

This is not Manny being Manny.

This is Manny being Stupid.

The latest rejection was announced Thursday night in a highly unusual news release issued by the Dodgers.

Not only are they making private negotiations public, but they are buffing the news with smack talk from the owner.

"The Dodgers today received a letter from Scott Boras, the agent for Manny Ramirez, rejecting the offer that the club made yesterday," read the release. "This rejection is the fourth by the agent in the club's attempts to sign Manny."

Wait. It was just getting good.

"We love Manny Ramirez," said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt in the release. "And we want Manny back, but we feel we are negotiating against ourselves."

McCourt then referred to Boras' statement this winter, when the agent announced he was ignoring the Dodgers in hopes of seeking "serious offers."

"When his agent finds those 'serious offers' from other clubs, we'll be happy to restart the negotiations," said McCourt in the release.

Sarcasm dripped from the ink, and McCourt wasn't finished.

"Even with an economy that has substantially eroded since last November, out of respect for Manny and his talents, we actually improved our offer," McCourt said. "So now, we start from scratch."

So now, it's personal.

It's personal between McCourt and Boras, an agent who needs this high-profile victory after fumbling Alex Rodriguez's contract last year.

And it's getting personal between the Dodgers and Ramirez, whose rag-doll appearance hides the heart of a cold mercenary.

From the start of these negotiations, Boras and Ramirez were hoping to play on McCourt's image as a cheap owner, an image that is not supported by what has been one of the league's highest payrolls.

The moment the National League Championship Series ended, Ramirez was joking about how his price, like the price of gas, was only going up.

Funny rich man.

Then when negotiations began, and the Dodgers offered a two-year deal worth $45 million, Boras openly scoffed.

Funny agent with no leverage.

Three months later, McCourt has spent money signing Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake and Orlando Hudson to steady the infield, signed Randy Wolf to help the rotation, signed Brad Ausmus to give catcher Russell Martin a breather.

Yet three months later, Boras is still intimating that he won't spend the money.

And three months later, Ramirez still doesn't have another offer.

How does that happen? It has been written here that Ramirez is not worth the long-term risk after he walked out on the Boston Red Sox in the middle of last year's pennant race, but goodness, I didn't expect all of baseball's rich fools to agree with me.

Ramirez is good enough to put the New York Mets into the World Series right now, yet they didn't want him.

Ramirez is good enough to make the New York Yankees the championship favorites in an instant, yet they steered clear of him.

Heck, the team that once employed Barry Bonds could have become division favorites and even bigger Dodgers irritants, but even the San Francisco Giants didn't want anything to do with him.

The Dodgers were the only ones to still embrace him. The Dodgers were the only ones still willing to pay him.

The Dodgers have the perfect manager for him, the perfect clubhouse for him, the perfectly forgiving fans for him, and, now, the absolute perfect contract for him.

And now, with spring training games already started, he still says no?

Ramirez is clearly waiting for a slugger somewhere to break a leg, at which point he finally will have his leverage and get his big contract.

I still think he will eventually tire of this game and sign a dream deal with the Dodgers.

But, more than ever, I continue to wonder if he will be worth it.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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